EXT: A FIELD, COVERED WITH CANNON CRATERS, SMOKE, AND DUST.
A Civil War Union General scribbles out an order, hands it to a page, and sends him running to the front.
And with that order, I have killed my brother. Perhaps. I could have sworn I saw his face, pale and young among those men. Boys. Soldiers.
How can we maintain a union when it is pockmarked with the holes where dead men once lived? How can we preserve a body while lopping off its arm?
When Thomas was young he came running into the house from the plantation, weeping. He'd fallen asleep in the sun and his face was red and hot to the touch. If our pa had seen him crying, he would have beaten him blind, so he came to me of course. I would never hurt Thomas. I was soft with him. I rubbed alcohol on his face to cool it and gave him my wide-brimmed hat to wear. He called it "John," my own name. At that age he thought anything that belonged to me was an extension of me by default.
He is a traitor to the Union. It is no crime to kill a rebel soldier.
(A cannon booms. He is unable to stop a cry)
The cannons! It is done, then. I have killed. Just soldiers, perhaps, but perhaps my brother as well. I am Cain, the murderer of my own house.
(A bizarre laugh seems to grip him)
And what is there possibly to say to Mother? 'I saw Thomas today, Mother. We exchanged the normal pleasantries over the patter of falling shells. He is dead.'
(He sobers quickly.)
In the Scriptures, the Lord gives Cain a mark. The mark of Cain isn't as bad as it sounds, how can it be? God grants it as a sign of his protection. Not all is lost for those who commit fratricide.
I can still see his face. Not the frightened, dirt-smeared soldier in the crowd, but the round cheeks of that crying boy, clutching the straw hat to his chest. I wonder if he saw my face among the cannons. I wonder if he called them all 'John.'
(He begins plucking off his medals, examining them, and letting them fall. Idly)
Which of these is the mark of Cain, I wonder? Or is it all of them? Blue and gray alike? How funny to think that Abel sired no children of his own. We are all of us descended from Cain.